Watch this Video about Firdausi/Ferdowsi
Firdausi (also spelled Ferdowsi) (940-1020)was the first great writer in Persian.Persian,also called Farsi,is an Indo-European language related to English,French,Latin,Greek,Sanskrit,it is not Semitic like Arabic.
Firdausi lived at a time when Persian was hardly used by intellectuals in Iran,everybody used Arabic,which had been the language of culture for over 300 years.He was very nationalistic and decided to write a great poem in Persian.
The Book of Kings,the Epic Poem by Firdausi
It has the following characteristics:
1.It covers 1,000 years of the lives of the Persian kings and queens till the Muslim-Arab conquest in the 7th century.
2.He intentionally used,as far as possible,only Persian words,never Arabic words,and it is almost pure Persian.
The Most Famous Story in the “Book of Kings”
It tells of the battle between Rostam and Sohreb and how Rostam kills him. Rostam is the champion of champions and is in numerous stories,which are some of the most popular parts of the poem. As a young child, he slays the crazy white elephant of king Manuchehr with just one blow,and he also tames his legendary stallion, Rakhsh.
Rostam,just after the battle,discovers that Sohreb,the man he has killed,was his own son,and that fills him with despair.
The Shahnameh or Book of Kings
Composed of 60,000 verses, the epic recounts the myths, legends, and “history” of Iran from the beginning of time to the Arab conquest in the seventh century.It tells of the reigns of 50 monarchs (including three women) and can be divided into a legendary and a quasi-historical section. It begins with the reign of Kayumars at the dawn of time and concludes with the last Sasanian king, Yazdgerd, who was defeated by the Arabs. These fifty “chronicles” tell of the dramatic deeds and heroic actions of people who are often aided by or at battle with fantastic creatures and treacherous villains. The poem was inspired by a wealth of sources, including local and dynastic histories, the Avesta (the sacred text of the Zoroastrian religion of ancient Iran), and myths and legends preserved in oral tradition.
The Saviour of the Persian Language
His poem was the first great work in Farsi and it had an astonishing influence on the Iranians.One can say that had it not been for him Iran would be another Arab country like Egypt,Irak,Morocco.
The Turkic ruler Mahmud of Ghazni (971-1030) and Firdausi
Mahmud of Ghazni was the ruler of Firdausi and he was interested in the poet.Mahmoud promised his 1 gold coin for every couplet of the Shahnameh.
Who was Mahmud of Ghazni?
Mahmud of Ghazni(971-1030) was the sultan of a vast region with its capital in Samarkand,and he led 17 pillaging raids on India destroying many Hindu temples and according to Abu Nasr Muhammad Utbi, the secretary and chronicler of Mahmud, took 500,000 Hindus as slaves,men and women, back with him.
Mahmud is chiefly remembered as the plunderer of India. Between 1000 and 1026 he mounted at least 17 raids against India with the aim of extirpating idol-worshiping Hindu infidels and destroying Hindu temples, which were great repositories of wealth. His most important expedition was against the temple of Shiva in Somanth(one of the most holy temples in Hinduism) in 1025. It is estimated that Mahmud took from India jewels, gold, and silver in excess of 3 billion dinars, in addition to hundreds of thousands of slaves.We know that Muslims in India destroyed literally thousands of Hindu temples.
Firdausi finishes his Poem
It took Firdausi around 30 years to write the 60,000 verses of the Book of Kings.He was counting on the reward to serve as his daughter’s dowry.But when Mahmud learned how long the poem was he broke his promise and decided to pay using silver coins.This was rejected by Firdausi,later Mahmud,on seeing the merit of the poem,decided to pay in gold.But it was too late,when the money arrived Firdausi had already died.
To read his poem “The Book of Kings” (incomplete translation):
The Last Persian King,Yazdgerd III
He is a character in the Shahnameh and was the 29th and last king of the Sassanian dynasty of Iran. His father was Shahryar, whose mother was Miriam, the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Maurice.Yazdgerd III ascended to the throne in 632 and lost it to the Muslim Arabs at the Battle of al-Qadisiyya in 636.
The Parts of the Poem where Firdausi Laments the Conquest of his Country
“Where are your valiant warriors and your priests,
Where are your hunting parties and your feasts?
Where is that warlike mien, and where are those
Great armies that destroyed our country’s foes?
Count Persia as a ruin, as the lair
Of lions and leopards. Look now and despair.”
“When the pulpit’s equal to the throne
And Abu Bakr’s and Omar’s names (Note:the first 2 caliphs of Islam) are known
Our long travails will be as nothing, and all
The glory we have known will fade and fall.
The stars are with the Arabs, and you’ll see
No crown or throne, no royal sovereignty.”
Was Firdausi a Secret Apostate?
We know he was an ultra-nationalist and there is a line in the poem where Yazdgerd III says:
“Damn this world, damn this time, damn this fate,
That uncivilized Arabs have come to make me Muslim”
It is possible Firdausi,better said,highly certain,that in saying “uncivilized Arabs”,he was expressing not only the thought of his character Yazdgerd but his own,personal,heartfelt,authentic feelings.
“They have come to make me Muslim”
Here is a reference to the discrimination and persecution of the non-Muslims,of the Zoroastrians of Iran that made many adopt Islam.It seems strange a pious Muslim would make a reference to Arab Muslims forcing Zoroastrian Iranians to convert.It gives a negative impression of the companions and relatives of Muhammad,the Muslim prophet,the first 4 caliphs of Islam,all of them were Arabs,not Persians:
1.Abu Bekr:his father-in-law (ruled 632-634)
2.Omar (ruled 634-644,assasinated),the one who conquered Iran
3.Othman (ruled 644-656,assasinated)
4.Ali:cousin and son-in-law (ruled 656-661,assasinated)
Dangerous Times for Expressing Skepticism
It is possible he was expressing his true feelings through the mouth of Yazdgerd III.The famous Persian apostate and scientist Al-Razi died only 15 years before Firdausi was born and he had written:
“If the people of this religion are asked about the proof for the soundness of their religion, they flare up, get angry and spill the blood of whoeverconfronts them with this question. They forbid rational speculation, and strive to kill their adversaries. This is why truth became thoroughly silenced and concealed.”
Article on the Persecution of the Zoroastrians of Iran
Omar Khayyam and Al-Razi,Two Persian Scientists and Apostates of Islam
Who was Al-Razi?
He is better known as Rhazes,his Western name,he was the greatest physician of anywhere in the Middle Ages.
1.One of his most important accomplishments was the discovery of ethanol and kerosene,and he invented rubbing alcohol.
2. Al-Razi was the first physician to diagnose and treat smallpox, measles, and the first one to distinguish the difference between them
3. He was a pioneer of empirical research in the medical sciences, and he did some experiments on animals like monkeys, where he gave them medicines, noted the impact, and if it was successful, he treated people with them.He was the first to write articles on allergy and immunology. Al-Razi was the first to realize that fever is a natural defense mechanism, the body’s way of fighting disease.
4. He took care of the psychological aspects of the patient, raised his morale and tried to remove his fears through the use of psychological techniques until cured.
5.Al-Razi is considered the father of pediatrics for writing “The Diseases of Children”, the first book to deal with pediatrics as an independent field of medicine.
6.In his book Doubts about Galen(Galen lived from 129-circa 200),Al-Razi rejects several claims made by the Greek physician,who was the greatest physician of Antiquity. He links medicine with philosophy, and states that sound practice demands independent thinking. He reports that Galen’s descriptions do not agree with his own clinical observations regarding the run of a fever. And in some cases he finds that his clinical experience exceeds Galen’s.He criticized Galen’s theory that the body possessed four separate “humors” (liquid substances), whose balance are the key to health.
8.In the end he got cataracts and became completely blind.
The Case of Rhazes or Al-Razi
Al-Razi wrote three books dealing with religion:
1.”The Prophets’ Fraudulent Tricks”
2.“The Stratagems of Those Who Claim to Be Prophets”
3.“On the Refutation of Revealed Religions”
From the content it is obvious he did not believe in Islam or in any religion.We have:
“[God] should not set some individuals over others, and there should be between them neither rivalry nor disagreement which would bring them to perdition.”
“On what ground do you deem it necessary that God should single out certain individuals(Note:like Muhammad), that he should set them up above other people, that he should appoint them to be the people’s guides, and make people dependent upon them?”
“If the people of this religion are asked about the proof for the soundness of their religion, they flare up, get angry and spill the blood of whoever confronts them with this question. They forbid rational speculation, and strive to kill their adversaries. This is why truth became thoroughly silenced and concealed.”
Read what he says about religious leaders:
“As a result of them being long accustomed to their religious denomination, as days passed and it became a habit. Because they were deluded by the beards of the goats, who sit in ranks in their councils, straining their throats in recounting lies, senseless myths and “so-and-so told us in the name of so-and-so.”
On the Koran he said:
“You claim that the evidentiary miracle is present and available, namely, the Koran. You say: “Whoever denies it, let him produce a similar one.” Indeed, we will produce a thousand similar, from the works of rhetoricians, eloquent speakers and valiant poets, which are more appropriately phrased and state the issues more succinctly. They convey the meaning better and their rhymed prose is in better meter. … By God what you say astonishes us! You are talking about a work which recounts ancient myths, and which at the same time is full of contradictions and does not contain any useful information or explanation. Then you say: “Produce something like it”?”
Al-Razi was referring to the Circular Argument of the Koran
“This Koran could not have been devised by any beside God; but it verifies that which was before it, and details the Book(Note:the Bible) – there is no doubt therein – from the Lord of the worlds. Do they say:”He has devised it?” say then:”Bring a surah like it,and call, if you can, on other than God, if you tell the truth!””
Produce a Chapter like that of the Koran,but it is Impossible
“And if you are in doubt of what we have revealed to our servant:
1.Then bring a chapter like it, and call your witnesses other than God if you tell truth.
2.But if you do it not, and you will surely not do it, then fear the fire whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for disbelievers.”
Produce a Book like the Koran,but it is Impossible
“Say:”If mankind and genies united together to bring the like of this Koran, they could not bring the like, though they should help each other.””
To Know why it is a Circular Argument read:
The Case of Omar Khayyam
He was a greater scientist and mathematician than a poet,though in the West he is most famous for his Rubaiyat.He reformed the calender and made it as accurate as the Gregorian calender of 1582,which appeared almost 500 years later.
He gives the impression of having been an agnostic or even an atheist,like in 2 of his quatrains where he says:
“When once you hear the roses are in bloom,
Then is the time, my love, to pour the wine;
Houris and palaces and Heaven and Hell-
These are but fairy-tales, forget them all.”
“Look not above, there is no answer there
Pray not, for no one listens to your prayer
Near is as near to God as any far
And here is just the same deceit as there.”
To verify the Koranic citations go to quranbrowser.com, which has:
1.Six translations by Muslims.
2.Four translations by Non-Muslims.
3.The text in Arabic,with Latin letters.